Last Monday I rode the Greater Manchester Cycle, which was a 52 mile blast round the closed roads of Manchester at an average speed of over 21mph. The day after I was absolutely wrecked and I realised I hadn’t quite got over my week of illness. On Friday I was still not feeling 100% and I had the 200k Knockerdown audax on the Saturday. I hadn’t realised but this was a 3.25AAA point ride which meant not only 125+ miles but some serious climbing as well.
I’d been watching the weather all week and for a short time it looked like Saturday may be the good day. Alas, when I woke it clearly wasn’t.
This is one of John Perrin’s audaxes and I’ve written about the hospitality before. John opens his house as an HQ (must be mad) so there was coffee, toast, croissants etc pre-ride. I bumped into old friend Peter Bond in the kitchen and he was asking if I’d been up to anything interesting recently. I told him we’d been to the alps for a week for some Tour de France cols
“And did you ride up any?” Peter asked, completely deadpan.
Another thing I hadn’t realised (preparation is everything) was that over 50km of the ride was on cycle trails and with the rain tipping it down it was going to be a “bit dirty”. I was the only idiot there with no mudguards and wearing shorts. Doh.
At the start I decided I needed to ride the flatter bits as quickly as possible so I left the rest of the riders behind and headed off into the horrible rain. Starting at 8am I was already soaked by 9am, with the various waterproofing failing. John had allowed me to bypass a particularly muddy lakeside trail and so I headed directly to Leek on the main roads. The rain stopped long enough to give some false hope before re-commencing tipping it down. It was quite blustery but in the form of a nice tailwind and I put it to the back of my mind that we’d have to come back into it at some point during the day.
First stop came relatively quickly at Whetton, where I had teacake and crumpets next to a very high looking river.
The various cycle trails were completely devoid of cars which was great. However, they do have some disadvantages – they were muddy and poorly surfaced in many places, there are lots of weekend walkers and cyclists using them, and they are often punctuated by regular gates. This means it’s very difficult to get into any kind of rhythm or maintain any kind of sensible average speed. I found myself wishing for the road after a while.
There was still an awful lot of water around but by about lunchtime it had stopped raining incessantly with only the odd shower here and there. I made my way to Bakewell and my second cafe stop. My dishevelled appearance contrasted completely with the very nice surroundings of the Lavender café, where I had poached eggs on toast quietly steaming in the corner.
I was already tired at this point (about 68 miles) and we’d done a reasonable amount of climbing, but I knew there was more to come. And, leaving Bakewell, we turned back into the wind, which made life that little bit harder for a short distance, before looping in a big “S” shape back down to Whetton and back into the wind on the return journey to Broken Cross.
The final control was John in his familiar red camper van, serving coffee, hot dogs and various other sandwiches and cakes. He also seemed to find the state of me and my bike quite amusing, but as I pointed out, it was all his fault!
With 25 miles still to do I was very, very tired, and realised there were still a few hills remaining, as well as the headwind to contend with.
I made it back to Broken Cross at around 7-30pm, having started that morning at 8am, and was the first finisher. I suspect some people were still out an hour or so later. I was wet, cold, covered in mud, seriously bedraggled and with aching legs, but it was a very nice route and I enjoyed it. On a “summer” day it would be a very pretty route and hopefully next year the weather will be a bit kinder.
Ride stats : 126 miles in 9hrs 17m @ 13.5mph average. 7,760ft of climbing, average HR 140bpm, 6,970kcals energy used
Strava ride here